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Monday, November 7, 2016

(My) ICON Magazine October 2016 Theater Reviews

The Philadelphia Fringe Festival might as well be called Fringe Subsidy Publishing, LLC.  
Participating "artists" pay an entry fee and then rent a venue space, meaning that moneyed people with
minimal talent can become temporary ‘artists.’ The big challenge is coming up a zany, absurdist
 skit and  then getting your friends to be actors. Fringe Arts founder Ezra Buzzington, formerly known
 as Jonathan Harris, likes to say what the Fringe is not: sloppy, late, unprofessional, ego-driven
 or amateurist. This is definitely true in an alternate universe.    

Playwright George Brant says he spent 5 months researching his play “Grounded,” about drone warfare. “I wasn’t expecting to write about pilots,” he wrote, “but during my research I was struck by the fact that during Obama’s
first three months in office, he was using three times as many drone attacks as Bush did.”  Grounded became an off-Broadway hit in 2015 when Oscar winner Anne Hathaway was in the pilot’s seat. Philadelphia goes ‘drone’
 when director Kathryn MacMillan teams up with actress Kittson O’Neill for InterAct Theatre’s production of this famous one woman show (until October 23). O’Neill plays the pilot who bombs targets 12 hours a day without ever
 having to leave the Velveeta cheese comfort of her Air Force trailer.  How will all this armchair warfare affect
 the psyche of this hard working woman?  "What makes Brant’s play exceptional is its driving,
white-hot sense of identification with a woman who is not, on the face of it, a sympathetic character,” Scotland’s Scotsman reported.    (

The fish that audiences will see fall from the sky during the Wilma’s production of
 When the Rain Stops Falling has a counterpart in real life: the foot long (smelly) catfish dropped
 by a bird of prey that hit a woman in the face in Fairmount Park. You might as well call this bird
 That Stupid F*cking Bird, also the name of an adaptation of Chekov’s The Seagull by the
 Arden’s Aaron Posner. This irreverent, contemporary madcap take on The Seagull promises
 a lot of direct audience “addresses” and (according to a
2015 American Theatre Review), “rants about the uselessness of contemporary theatre” where “the
 word ‘sucks’ comes up often as does the F word that rhymes with it.” The play goes much deeper than
 hipster cur     the rants, however.  Scripted by Posner in 2013, TSFB has played all over the US to generally good reviews if
 only because there’s no subject like unrequited love to get audiences to shed a tear or clench a fist at
 their personal, unpleasant memories.   

  England’s Spectator magazine calls George Bernard Shaw “a smug and
 overrated babbler,” whose
 plays are “like reading a billion tweets at one sitting.” But this “nimblest of
 storytellers” continues
 to hit pay dirt with his classic Mrs. Warren’s Profession, about a high
 class prostitute and brothel
keeper played by 5 time Barrymore Award nominee, Mary Martello,
 who’s reunion with daughter
 Vivie (Claire Inie-Richards) at The Lantern (until October 9) sets off a
chain reaction with a number
 of predatory men. The legendary Martello delivers a flawless performance; she’s also fun to watch
 as she dons big Victorian hats. Inie-Richards captures the soulless quality of the unforgiving Vivie
 when Mrs. Warren comes clean about her job, though Vivie becomes human when she sheds a few
 tears. Vivie may be Shaw’s New Woman but she lacks her mother’s there there. David Bardeen as
 the blunt-to-the-bone, hyper masculine Mr. Praed gives the play its finest dialogue. Actor Daniel
 Fredrick as Frank Gardner becomes the classic image of the  beautiful Victorian lad in the style
 of Brideshead Revisited, while John Lopes as the Rev. Samuel Gardner and Andrew Criss as
 Sir George Crofts keep the acting levels in Mrs. Warren’s Profession pretty much close to perfect.   


The American classic, Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific has been packing them in at The Walnut Street Theatre. Catch this time capsule gem with powerful musical lyrics and surprising literary references (Andre Gide and Marcel Proust) before October 23.  This impeccable production is a credit to WST’s Artistic Director, Bernard Havard, and writer James Michener's 1947 novel, 'Tales of the South Pacific,’ from which the show is based.